airline passenger rights switzerland
Everyday Money

Flight Delays and Cancellations – What Are Your Rights in Switzerland?

August 18, 2023 - Daniel Dreier

Get informed about your Swiss airline passenger rights in this informative travel guide.

Flight delays and flight cancellations by airlines are relatively commonplace. Here, explains what you can do if your flight is delayed or canceled.

Which airline passenger rights apply in Switzerland?

Switzerland shares its air passenger rights charter with the EU, Iceland, and Norway. This charter applies to all flights that:

  • Leave from Switzerland or an EU country, Iceland, or Norway.
  • Arrive in Switzerland from an EU country, Iceland, or Norway, or from another Swiss airport.
  • Arrive in Switzerland, an EU country, Iceland, or Norway from all other countries, if the airline is based in the EU, Iceland, Norway, or Switzerland.

If your flight does not meet the above criteria, then Swiss airline passenger rights do not apply. In that case, the legal passenger rights which apply may be those of the country you fly from or land in, or that the airline is based in.

My flight was canceled. Should the airline reimburse my tickets?

You are entitled to compensation if the airline cancels your flight with less than 14 days of notice, unless the cancellation is caused by unavoidable circumstances (air traffic decisions or bad weather, for example).

There are limits to the reimbursement you can claim. These limits are: 

  • The equivalent of 250 euros for flights up to 1500 kilometers.
  • The equivalent of 400 euros for flights over 1500 kilometers.
  • The equivalent of 600 euros for flights over 3500 kilometers to or from a country outside of EFTA and the EU.

Alternatively, the airline can offer you a different flight to your destination. It is then up to you to either accept the alternative flight, or have your ticket reimbursed. If you choose the latter, you will only be entitled to 50 percent of the amounts shown above if:

  • Your destination is less than 1500 kilometers away, and the alternative flight would have gotten you there no more than 2 hours later than the flight you originally booked.
  • Your destination is between 1500 and 3500 kilometers away, and the alternative flight would have gotten you there no more than 3 hours later than the original flight.
  • Your destination is more than 3500 kilometers away and in a country outside of EFTA and the EU country, and the alternative flight would have gotten you there no more than 4 hours later than the flight you booked.

If you choose to claim reimbursement, the airline must pay you the money within 7 days.

I missed a flight because the check-in counter was closed by the time I arrived at the airport. Can I get reimbursed?

No. If you fail to check in on time, you have no right to claim reimbursement. Some airlines may be accommodating and place you on an alternative flight – either at no additional charge, or for the difference in price between your forfeited ticket and the replacement ticket. But there is no legal requirement for airlines to do so.

My flight was delayed. Am I entitled to compensation?

You can claim compensation from the airline if you arrive at your destination at least 3 hours after the scheduled arrival time. The limits on compensation are identical to those for flight cancellations.

Should the airline give me free food and accommodation during a flight delay?

You have the right to claim a reasonable amount of complimentary meals and refreshments paid for by the airline if a flight is delayed by:

  • More than 2 hours, for flights up to 1500 kilometers.
  • More than 3 hours, for flights of over 1500 kilometers.
  • More than 4 hours, for flights of over 3500 km flying to or from a destination outside of EFTA or the EU.

If the delay extends to one or more nights, you have the right to claim complimentary hotel accommodation and transportation between the hotel and the airport.

I am physically disabled. Can I claim special benefits if my flight is delayed or canceled?

If your disability causes reduced mobility, you and those accompanying you benefit from special privileges. If your flight is canceled or delayed for any length of time, you have the right to meals, refreshments, hotel accommodation (when overnight or extended stays are necessary), and transportation between the airport and hotel free of charge.

My flight arrived late and I missed my connecting flight because of the delay. What can I do?

If the full trip was booked as a single reservation, you can claim full reimbursement of the tickets for all of the missed connecting flights. 

Alternatively, you can also choose to wait and be placed on another connecting flight. In that case, the airline must cover the cost of a reasonable amount of meals and refreshments during the wait, as well as hotel stays and hotel shuttle transportation for overnight waits. 

If the circumstances which cause the delay are beyond the airline’s control, then you cannot claim reimbursement of your tickets for missed connecting flights. However, you are still entitled to alternative flights, meals and hotel stays.

Can I claim my money back if an airline overbooked and I was not able to board the airplane?

Yes. If you have a valid ticket, but are either denied boarding or voluntarily give up your reservation when asked to do so by the airline, you have the right to claim reimbursement of your airline ticket. The limits for reimbursement are the same as for flight cancellations.

I booked a business class ticket but had to fly in economy class because the airline had overbooked. Can I get a refund?

Yes. If you are downgraded to a lower category, you can claim reimbursement for part of the cost of your ticket. The limits vary depending on the flight.

  • 30 percent of your ticket’s cost for flights up to 1500 kilometers
  • 50 percent of your ticket’s cost for flights over 1500 kilometers
  • 75 percent of your ticket’s cost for flights over 3500 kilometers to or from a country outside of EFTA or the EU.

If an airline seats me in business or first class because economy is overbooked, do I have to pay for a first class or business class ticket?

No. If an airline bumps you up to a higher category due to overbooking, it cannot charge you a markup on your existing ticket.

My luggage was damaged after I checked it in. Can I claim compensation?

Yes. As long as the damage was caused by the airline and not by a pre-existing defect, you can claim compensation for the cost of the damages, but at the most the equivalent of 1000 special drawing rights (approximately 1200 Swiss francs). Claims must be made directly to the airline within 7 days of collecting your luggage.

My luggage was delayed. Can I get the airline to pay?

Yes, but only if your luggage arrives late on the outgoing journey to your travel destination (not when you return to your home airport). You can claim reimbursement for the costs of buying clothing, toiletries and other items which you will need while you wait for your luggage. Keep the receipts for these necessary purchases, as you will need them in order to claim compensation. Reimbursement of costs is limited to a maximum of approximately 1200 Swiss francs, but never more than the approximate value of the items you are replacing. You must report the delay at the baggage claim before leaving the airport. After receiving your delayed luggage, you must then file the claim for reimbursement directly with the airline within 21 days. If your luggage is delayed by more than 21 days, the same rules apply as with lost luggage.

Can I claim compensation for lost luggage?

Yes. When baggage you check in is permanently lost, or delayed for more than 21 days, you can claim reimbursement of your luggage’s actual, current market value (not the price you paid for items new). However, keeping receipts to verify the original value of your luggage is helpful for reference. Reimbursement is limited to a maximum of approximately 1200 Swiss francs.


How do I go about claiming compensation?

Many airlines provide online application forms on their website (such as the SWISS form available here). You may also be able to submit claims at customer service centers or by mail.

There are also private companies that help you with the process of claiming your airline passenger rights for a fee. The costs are generally high. For example, The Air Refund service available to users of Visa credit cards and debit cards takes 30 percent of the compensation paid out for successful claims. 

Where can I get help if an airline does not respect my passenger rights?

If you feel that an airline did not meet its obligations with regard to your Swiss airline passenger rights, you can submit a complaint to the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) online here, or by mail at this address:

Federal Office of Civil Aviation
Passenger rights
3003 Bern

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Editor Daniel Dreier
Daniel Dreier is editor and personal finance expert at
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